Sign In
Search Icon
Menu Icon

Hospital Preparedness Progra​m P​roved Critical in Reducing Spread of COVID-19 during Historic 2020 Presidential Nominating Conventions

Milwaukee, WI and Charlotte, NC
August 2020

For the first time ever, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions – which historically welcomed large, in-person crowds to formally support and present a Presidential nominee for their respective party – hosted a mix of virtual and more intimate, in-person events as safeguards to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To help enable people to gather safely, convention organizers leveraged ASPR’s Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP) support, which includes capabilities from health care coalitions (HCC) in partnership with public health officials and regional event management staff to revamp their programming, develop health protocols to reduce the virus' spread, and coordinate readiness across their respective health care systems. For both conventions, ASPR's HPP supported state public health and medical preparedness activities, particularly in response planning and surveillance.

The Democratic National Convention

Democratic National Convention (DNC) organizers worked with one of Wisconsin's seven Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalitions (HERC) to enhance situational awareness and collect and compile information regarding current hospital capabilities.

As part of the DNC convention planning, HERC Coordinators worked with the Public Health Surveillance Work Group and hospitals to collect near-real-time information about potential outbreaks. This information was provided to stakeholders on an as-needed or requested basis. Coordinated action with public health departments helped Convention organizers:

  • Leverage pre-existing systems of contact tracing and outbreak exposure

  • Compile information about public health incidents of consequence (e.g., communicable diseases, reportable conditions, biological/radiological exposures, foodborne illness, poisoning/overdose events, ED visits, and hospitalizations by symptom type)

  • Reduce duplication of efforts with the current Wisconsin COVID-19 response activities

  • Provide access to information on hospital status, environmental exposures, and foodborne illnesses

  • Receive counsel from subject matter experts with access to and awareness of the public health information systems
The state of Wisconsin

Wisconsin HERC Region 7

The Southeast Wisconsin Healthcare Emergency Readiness Coalition, Inc. (HERC Region 7) consists of 188 member organizations and agencies from various disciplines, including clinics, community and private organizations, emergency management, emergency medical services and public safety, hospitals, long term care facilities, public health departments, the Southeast Wisconsin Regional Trauma Advisory Council (SERTAC) and other partners. Serving nine counties, including Milwaukee, HERC Region 7 played a critical role in the DNC's h ealth care preparedness.

The Republican National Convention

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Republican National Convention (RNC) was supported by several members of the Metrolina Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (MHPC). Six of the ten members of the RNC Committee's (RNCC) COVID-19 Planning Cell Membership Team were MHPC core members and partners, including Atrium Health, Novant Health, Mecklenburg County Health Department, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management, and Mecklenburg EMS Agency (MEDIC). In the past, the MHPC also played a vital role in regional planning and response to the 2012 DNC Management Plan. With the risks imposed by the pandemic, the MHPC had an expanded role in planning as compared to the previous convention, with more members engaged in improving the response to and recovery from major health emergencies. During the convention, Novant Health administered attendee COVID-19 testing and coordinated contact tracing with the RNC Committee and the Mecklenburg County Health Department. MEDIC assisted in organizing and staffing the event's emergency medical response team. Atrium Health provided COVID-19 symptom screening and event medicine services at the convention center host site, ensuring a COVID-Safe environment for attendees and dignitaries.

Additionally, the MHPC used its COVID-19 Regional Hospital Information Sharing Platform to enhance situational awareness around the pandemic. Working with the MHPC, the RNC was able to:

  • Administer daily health screenings, temperature checks, and questionnaires on all attendees
  • Leverage wearable technologies and software to make symptom tracking and contact tracing easier for health officials
  • Conduct COVID-19 testing, compile results and share with necessary parties on all attendees prior to meeting attendance
  • Isolate COVID-19 positive individuals immediately and notify and issue quarantine instructions for close contacts
  • Provide routine updates about reported cases to help the community better understand how this pandemic is developing

It was reported that three DNC event staffers, two RNC attendees, and two RNC event staffers tested positive for COVID-19. Using attendance estimates, this translates to an approximate 0.9% case positive rate, compared to the national case positive rate for August of 5-8%. No deaths were reported.

Metrolina Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (MHPC)

Metrolina Healthcare Preparedness Coalition (MHPC)

As one of eight HCCs in North Carolina, the MHPC facilitates a regional health care preparedness program that enables local, regional, and state partners to collectively improve response to and recovery from major emergencies. The MHPC serves 13 counties in southwestern North Carolina by facilitating the disaster preparedness capabilities of 61 hospitals, EMS agencies, emergency management, and public health partners. Within Mecklenburg County, which covers Charlotte, the MHPC has 11 core members and partners, whose coordinated action mitigated the risk of COVID-19 during the RNC.

​The coalitions' coordinated action and agility were instrumental in scaling health care preparedness to the needs of both presidential nominating conventions and preventing the further spread of the coronavirus. Through active engagement and planning, surveillance, and information sharing, the Wisconsin HERC Region 7 and MHPC enabled the effective implementation of safe health and operating protocols for the DNC and RNC, respectively, even considering the rapid changes and shifts in plans. By integrating health care entities and private sector partners, these health care coalitions were able to implement health care prevention and response efforts that kept hundreds of people safe. ​​​​​​